The NFL combine is less than a week away and days after that, the free agency period will begin with the start of the new league year. So it’s time for the Detroit Lions – and every other team in the NFL – to begin to take stock of what they have and where they can upgrade and improve.
With that in mind, we’ll do that as well with every position on the Lions roster leading into the combine. And just a reminder that things can change incredibly quickly in the next few weeks as the Lions decide which players to re-sign and let go.
Today we’ll look at a position the Lions might have the most personnel questions about on offense: The offensive line.
What are the chances the Lions bring back their own free agents here: Decent, if the price is right. Warford has been their best lineman on the whole during the past four seasons and is one of the top free agent guards available. If Detroit is willing to pay, he could return. Reiff transitioned well from left tackle to right tackle and the biggest key for him is how he’s viewed by teams around the league. If some teams see him as a starting-level left tackle, that would mean more money and probably that he departs. If there are no takers there, he could be a reasonably priced right tackle. Re-signing one or both would be smart moves for Detroit.
What do the Lions need between free agency and the draft: If you include the decisions on Warford and Reiff, possibly two starters. Dahl and Tomlinson could end up competing for the right guard spot, but Dahl has no experience and Tomlinson has been inconsistent. The Lions shouldn’t feel good if Robinson is the team’s opening-day right tackle, so they’ll need to add a starter and depth on the outside. Center, for now, should be set because Glasgow can play there as well as Swanson.
Three free agents to look at (other than Warford and Reiff):
Sebastian Vollmer, RT, New England: General manager Bob Quinn obviously has familiarity with Vollmer from his time with the Patriots. If the Lions are looking for a shorter-term option, Vollmer could be it. He will turn 33 by the start of the 2017 season, so he could be in a position in which the Lions want him for a short-term deal and then draft a mid-round tackle to try and develop behind him, with the thought of taking over in 2018 or 2019. But Vollmer is a smart player who would add a veteran presence on what could be a very young offensive line.
T.J. Lang, OG, Green Bay: He might be out of Detroit’s price range – he would likely cost more than Warford – but he is one of the better guards in the NFL. While local ties don't always matter, Lang grew up in suburban Detroit, played college football at Eastern Michigan and trains in suburban Detroit during the offseason. He was named to his first Pro Bowl this year and, like Vollmer, would give Detroit a veteran presence on the line. But he’s coming off hip surgery and had a foot injury in his final game last season, so those would be things to monitor.
Ricky Wagner, RT, Baltimore: Wagner, like Lang, might be out of Detroit’s price range, but he’s the best right tackle on the market. If Detroit wants to upgrade at the position and solidify the outside of the offensive line, Wagner would be the way to go and likely worth the money.
Three combine rookies that could get considered:
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: He’s ESPN’s top-rated offensive tackle and could be available when Detroit picks at No. 21. His draft profile indicates he's exceptional at pass protection – something the Lions could use in keeping Matthew Stafford clean – and above average in run blocking and awareness. The worries are only one year of high-level competition (he transferred from Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point to Wisconsin) and he dealt with a torn labrum in his hip in 2016.
Danny Isidora, OG, Miami (Fla.): He started 39 straight games for the Hurricanes and has good size at 6-foot-4, 305 pounds. He played his last three seasons at right guard, so if the Lions view him as a mid-to-late-round option, he could potentially push for a starting role pretty quickly. What the Lions do at guard will depend on Warford and how the team feels about the Dahl-Tomlinson combination.
Taylor Moton, OL, Western Michigan: A four-year starter for the Broncos, he has a good height/weight combination at 6-foot-5, 325 pounds. He’s also someone who has experience at both tackle and guard, so he could offer positional flexibility as well as starting capability. He’s going to be worth a look for Detroit, particularly if the Lions handle tackle, but not guard, during free agency.